STANDISH, ME - Second-seeded Saint Joseph's College (13-5, 7-3 GNAC) defeated #6 Emmanuel College (11-6-4, 5-6-0 GNAC), 4-1, in a Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Men's Soccer Tournament Semifinal at Westerlea Way Field on Thursday afternoon.
With the victory St. Joe's will host #4 Norwich University, who upset #1 Albertus Magnus College earlier this afternoon, in the GNAC Championship on Saturday at 2:00 PM. The conference championship victor earns an automatic qualifier into the NCAA DIII Tournament.
Those scouting Saint Joseph's and Emmanuel would have forecasted a low-scoring defensive struggle, but the outcome proved to be the exact opposite. Despite having not scored against the Saints in the last 236 minutes against them, St. Joe's broke through early and applied pressure for the majority of the contest.
The scoring began in the 11th minute when Ross Suleski '14 (Amesbury, Mass./St. Thomas Aquinas) netted his third goal of the year off a throw-in. From the extended 18 on the left side, Zak Hollingshead '12 (Westerly, R.I.) tossed a perfect ball into the box and Suleski flicked on the ball into the top right corner of the net.
Zach Johnson '14 (Westbrook, Maine) doubled the SJC lead 19 minutes later with his 16th goal of the season. The play began when Teddy Palmer '13 (Scarborough, Maine) steered a rocket shot from the top of the box that was stopped by Saints keeper Garrett Charette '15 (West Springfield, Mass.), but the rebound squirted directly to Johnson, who toed the ball into an empty net.
Johnson now sits in a tie with Jesse Beer for the Monks' single-season goals record. Beer netted 16 in 21 tilts for St. Joe's that season while Johnson has the same total through 18 contests this fall.
The 2-0 lead remained through intermission. Emmanuel held an 8-7 edge in shots and neither team was awarded a corner kick attempt in the first half.
St. Joe's struck first again in the latter stanza as Mike Sanfilippo '12 (Walpole, Mass.) registered his sixth marker of the year off a Johnson cross pass. Nick Lemieux '12 (Thomaston, Maine) lifted the Monks to a daunting 4-0 advantage with his first collegiate goal. Alex Day '13 (Portland, Maine/Cheverus) served up a perfect pass to Lemieux, who headed the ball into a wide-open net at the 83:29 mark.
The Saints spoiled the Monks' shutout bid when Danny Richman '14 (Medfield, Mass.) beat SJC keeper Kenny Grade '14 (Hampton, N.H./St. Thomas Aquinas) with a blast into the upper right corner.
Grade recorded five saves for Saint Joseph's while Charette tallied seven stops for Emmanuel. Wilhelm Du Bois '12 (Key Biscayne, Fla.) played 5:35 of mop-up duty in goal for the visitors and was not tested.
Emmanuel held an 18-17 advantage in shots, with many sailing off target, while St. Joe's notched a 2-1 edge in corner kicks in the semifinal victory.
Prior to this afternoon, the Saints had allowed four goals just once this season - a 4-3 double-overtime loss to Mount Ida College in late September. The Monks' scoring output this afternoon versus the Saints is the most the side has ever scored in a postseason contest.
Saint Joseph's will be making its third championship game appearance in the last four years and the second under the guidance of third-year Head Coach Steve Babineau. The Monks fell to Norwich by a 2-1 score in the 2008 GNAC Championship and defeated Emerson College in the title match by the same margin the following year.
St. Joe's made its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 2009 and suffered a 2-0 setback at the hands of Wesleyan College - a team that was ranked 11th in the country at the time and advanced to the Sweet 16 of the national tournament that fall.